Whenever we have family gatherings, I get assigned dishes. I’m fine with that since I enjoy cooking, and my family definitely has some favorites that I make that they enjoy me bringing over and over again like my orzo salad or apple cake or homemade bread. This year at my uncle’s house, they asked if I could bring corn casserole. Corn casserole? Why not?
Well, maybe because I don’t really like corn casserole. That primarily stems from my dislike of cornbread – nope, I’d never make a good southerner. I can’t do grits or sausage gravy either. And though I make an awesome French toast for my family even though I don’t like French toast myself, I decided that if I was going to make corn casserole, I was going to find a way to make one that I’d like.
After searching and searching for a recipe that didn’t include cornbread, I found a few, but nothing was really what I wanted. Corn and bacon go so beautifully together. And I didn’t want to use any sort of condensed soup; my corn casserole was going to be a from scratch type recipe because that’s the way I cook and the way I eat. Obviously, I was just going to have to come up with one on my own.
Anything but that, right?
I’m so glad I did. I made a cheesy corn casserole with just a little bit of a kick, and it was a hit. There was just a little bit left over, but that quickly disappeared after we brought it home. One of my picky relatives declared it the best corn casserole she’d ever eaten. And me? Well, considering that I don’t like corn casserole yet devoured two servings of this one, I suppose I’d have to agree.
Though it is completely from scratch, it isn’t that hard to make. It takes a little bit of time, but much of it is inactive cook time, so you aren’t slaving over the stove for hours. The time you do spend there? Totally worth it.
Corn Casserole Recipe
I started out by crisping up some thick, center cut bacon. I love a high quality bacon, not only because it has less fat and more yummy meat to it, but also because it has the perfect contrast of chewy and crispy when cut into matchsticks and then browned.
I drained most of the grease, leaving maybe 2-3 tablespoons and then added a diced red onion and let that caramelize in the bacon grease. It’s one of my favorite combinations ever, and a great complement to the casserole. Once the onions were caramelized, I added the flour and let it cook for a bit to get the raw flour taste out as I made a roux for the corn casserole’s cheese sauce.
I added the milk while stirring constantly to avoid any lumps, then added the cream cheese and stirred until it was smooth before adding the shredded cheddar cheese in small batches, stirring between each addition. I added the hot sauce for a little kick – add as much or as little as you choose to fit your tastebuds – and the green onion, and it was ready for the corn.
I used organic frozen corn because it’s the middle of winter, but this would be great with fresh corn. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the taste of canned corn, but you could use it. I simply prefer the crisp taste and texture of frozen.
Once I stirred in the corn, I added the whole mixture to a two quart casserole dish and pushed it down to ensure there were no air holes.
I could have left it just like this and baked it, but I wanted to have a crunchy, cheesy topping. I crushed some crackers and mixed that with some more shredded cheese that I laid atop the casserole before placing the lid onto the corn casserole and putting it in the oven. My casserole dish has an oven safe lid. If yours doesn’t you could easily cover it in tin foil instead.
After it had baked for about 45 minutes, I removed the lid and added the last of the toppings. I placed the green onions and bacon over the top and returned it to the oven to bake for another ten minutes. The cheese on top didn’t melt the way you might expect as it baked staying in the shreds rather than fully melting, but it was perfect for this topping.
After letting it cool and set for about ten minutes, the corn casserole was ready to eat. And boy did we!
An amazing alternative for those who are looking for a slightly different corn casserole. Made without cornbread, this lightly cheesy casserole has a bit of a kick that is a palate pleaser.
- 4 slices thick, center cut bacon
- 1 c red onion, diced
- 3 T flour
- 3/4 c milk
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 4 c shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 1-2 t hot sauce
- 4 green onion, divided
- 8 c frozen corn
- 1 1/2 c crackers, crushed
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut bacon into matchsticks and place into a cold pan. Heat and cook bacon until cooked through but less crispy than you would make bacon for eating immediately. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain all but 3 T of the bacon grease.
- Add the diced red onion and cook on medium low heat to caramelize. Stir only periodically and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft and sweet. Turn the heat to medium and add the flour Stir, cooking for 2-3 minutes to cook our the raw flour taste.
- While stirring, add the milk to ensure there are no lumps. Once it is incorporated, add the cream cheese and stir until the cream cheese has melted and is incorporated into the sauce. Add 3 cups of the cheddar cheese in batches to avoid having a clump of cheese. Stir in each batch until it melts before adding the next handful, being sure to reserve your last cup for the topping.
- Slice your green onions thinly on the bias. Reserve a handful for your topping, and add the hot sauce and most of your green onion to the sauce, and stir to ensure it is combined. Add the frozen corn and stir again so that the cheese sauce is coating all the corn. If your pot is not large enough to hold the corn and the cheese sauce, place the corn into a bowl and pour the cheese sauce over it before stirring.
- Add the mixture to a two quart casserole dish and push it down to ensure there are no air holes. Crush your crackers without pulverizing them, as you want some texture to remain, then mix with your remaining shredded cheese. Sprinkle this atop the casserole before placing the lid onto the corn casserole and putting it in the 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, remove the lid and add the last of the toppings, your reserved green onion and the bacon pieces. Return the corn casserole to the oven to bake for another ten minutes. Once it has finished baking, let it cool and set for about ten minutes, then serve immediately.
You can leave off the cracker and cheese topping if you choose, but it adds a great texture to the casserole and makes it a little prettier when presenting. If you choose you can broil the casserole for a couple minutes at the end of baking to add just a little more crunch.